PANEL: Land Expropriation and Proof of Possession
Friday, October 19, 2000, 8:45-10:15
Chair: Steven Wilf
University of Connecticut Law School
Translating Property: Mexican Land Grants and the Contest over Land in the American West
Using the Maxwell Land Grant, a Mexican land grant in northern New Mexico that spanned 1.7 million acres, as an example, this paper will look at how the U.S. Department of Interior, Congress, and the judiciary failed to translate the idea of Mexican property into the U.S. property system. I argue that the Mexican land grant system which embodied complicated and reciprocal notions about land-use, labor, and boundaries was not easily decipherable by the U.S. system which wanted to "translate" this complex and nuanced system into the U.S. property regime of homestead, pre-emption, and individual property. This process of translation and "liberalization" of the Mexican property system at the end of the 19th century led to the dispossession of thousands of Mexican-Americans and Native Americans from their homes and property holdings. While this process was accomplished through the use of military and economic force, I argue that it was the power of law that ultimately had the power to dispossess these landholders.
Land Expropriation in Northern Mexico, 1856-1910
This paper will study the means and legal justifications used to confiscate the lands of indigenous communities in Northern Mexico in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Laws prohibiting land ownership by collectives and organizations (such as villages and the Church) were an important mechanism for dissolving common into individual proprietorship. Although plans transforming collective into individual land ownership claimed to favor the workers of the land, the organizers and real beneficiaries of the programs were domestic and foreign entrepreneurs.
The Transformation of Legal Geography in an Ethnocentric State: The Making of the Israeli Land Regime, 1948-1970
Alexandre (Sandy) Kedar
The Israeli Land Regime was originally shaped by: (a) nationalization of Arab and other lands; (b) preservation of firm national control over these lands; and (c) selective allocation of possession and use to different sectors within Jewish society. I label this a collectivist-nationalist land regime. The thrust of the paper looks into the first component of the Israeli land regime, and specifically into the nationalization of Arab land. The paper attempts to understand how the newly created State of Israel used the Ottoman and British heritage, changed some of its components and introduced new ones, to further the Zionist agenda of "Land Redemption." After shortly outlining the major legal tools that permitted the appropriation and nationalization of Arab land, the paper focuses on one legal mechanism that permitted this transfer of land: The process of "land settlement" or "settlement of title" that began in the late 1950's in the Arab villages in the North of Israel. The paper reviews the subtle changes in Ottoman and British laws, which took place during the period. Although these changes in administrative practices, in legislation and in Court's interpretations, were mostly concerned with rules of procedure and evidence, they resulted in a dramatic transfer of land from Arabs to the state and to Jewish institutions, and thereby promoted the goal of 'redemption' of Arab land. In the remaining time I will briefly look at the process of land allocation within the Jewish population. While keeping the formal ownership and substantial part of the bundle of property rights within the State and the Jewish institutions, some components of the bundle of property rights in the land (such as the right to possess) were redistributed to different groups within the Jewish society according to ethnic and class lines. This expropriation and distribution of rights in land, which amounted to a legal reorganization of Israeli geography, was essential for the establishment of new power structure of Israel as an ethnocratic state and society.
Comment: Carol Rose
Yale Law School
Gregory S. Alexander
Cornell Law School